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Articles from RECYCLING (231 Articles)


Is Australia losing momentum on recycled aggregates?

Australia is a long way from a cohesive approach to its C&D waste stream. While some jurisdictions have well defined specifications, Damian Christie argues the country will benefit from a national regulatory approach to recycled products.

I don’t usually recommend articles in issues of Quarry but the feature Are C&D waste recycling targets obstacles to growth? is worth your attention. Peter Craven delivers a provocative commentary on the status of the European construction, demolition and excavation (CD&E) sector. He argues that while Europe seems set to meet its obligations under a waste framework directive – to recycle 70 per cent of its CD&E waste streams by 2020 – the reality is that target is meaningless and will not advance the credibility of recycled aggregates as a viable alternative to virgin rock.

Craven even argues that some Australian government guidelines – which permit the use of up to 30 per cent of recycled aggregates in structural concrete applications – should be adopted by European authorities. I’m not sure, though, if we deserve the accolade.

Compared to North America or Europe, our recycled aggregates sector is young. Major and medium-sized companies have successfully embraced recycled aggregate processing in the last 25 years. In turn, numerous statutory bodies (eg VicRoads, New South Wales’s Roads and Maritime Services) have encouraged them to perfect the processing of recycled aggregates in order to comply with the aggregate toughness and abrasion characteristics of road surfaces.

However, as a 2011 construction and demolition (C&D) waste status report from Hyder Consulting (on behalf of the Federal Department of the Environment) showed, Australia is a long way from a cohesive approach to its C&D waste stream. As Hyder noted, resource recovery rates are highest in the regions where there is a strong market demand for C&D materials and there are well defined, publicised specifications for recycled products.

Indeed, as stats for the period 2008-09 revealed, 8.5 million tonnes of C&D materials was disposed of nationally, with 10.5 million tonnes recycled. Australia has a 55 per cent national resource recovery rate from the C&D stream. This indicates that, compared to Europe’s more ambitious target, we’re travelling in the right direction – but are we maintaining momentum?

Many of the pros and cons Hyder identified for improving performance were jurisdiction-specific. An overview of each State or Territory’s performance showed that it was the eastern states and South Australia that lead the way in the recovery and recycling of C&D materials. Western Australia and the Northern Territory were the least active while recycling initiatives in Tasmania and the ACT were underdeveloped.

Along with National Standards for the production of recycled products, Hyder Consulting recommended a national body should encourage a greater take-up by stakeholders and adopt a national approach that promotes the competitiveness of recycled aggregates and the more efficient use of virgin aggregates. It also advocated the integration of C&D reprocessing facilities within quarry operations to extend recovery activities into regional communities.

As sound as some of these ideas are, four years have passed and little has changed. Is this another report that has been routinely ignored? Governments of both political persuasions at state and federal levels seem to lack the political will or resources (or both) to create incentives for stakeholders to take up C&D recycling or for quarries to diversify their operations. Once again, it seems Australia can’t get its act together because its jurisdictions are a Dr Dolittle-type “pushmi-pullyu” political animal.

That’s disappointing because as Craven argues, recycled aggregates can potentially drive efficiency, encourage innovation and conserve quarry resources. A national regulatory framework for recycled products will help the environment more than token programs by state and federal governments to reduce carbon emissions. Like Europe, Australia still has more work to do.

Sunday, 23 September, 2018 08:51am
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